by Michael Wiener















Irving Place, New York City




Fall 1998


A brisk, active Saturday afternoon. Several patients recline on chairs and couches at a chaotic dentist’s office, waiting their turns. Green potted plants sit on little white tables sprawling with popular magazines. The walls are beige. A hanging horse mobile spins, casting eerie but somehow soothing shadows on the walls. ROSA, a demure, petite, firm-bodied Latin girl, smooth clay-skinned, her hair falling in long, dark ringlets, dressed in a dark pantsuit with gold fringe, leather sandals on her feet, fills out forms behind the sliding glass at the front desk, intermittently barked at gently by the dentist, JACK, middle aged and looking it, tall, weary, wispy, curly gray-haired, big-eared, peering through his big glasses with his intense blue eyes, his blue uniform matching. The door chimes occasionally, pleasantly.


BESS is a fancy, slightly vampy middle-aged woman with coiffed full, brown hair in a short style. She wears a tight, black designer sweater tucked into light slacks with a big leather belt, pointy brown lizard boots and plenty of gold. Her nose is sharp, eyes beady and bright, mouth tight, breasts prominent. She discusses plastic surgery prospects with much younger, mid-20s BRETT, whose blond hair is shoulder length, eyes big and brown, lips and breasts full. She has a light tan. She has a fuzzy, dark turtleneck sweater on over her warm-colored plaid skirt, and wears running shoes over her black stockings. She is animated and cheerful, her legs crossed, her cheek resting in her hand, elbow on her knee as she listens, rising a bit when she has something to say. Young actor JOE slouches relaxedly nearby, left foot on right knee, buried intently in Entertainment Weekly except when he’s watching Bess and Brett. He’s voguely unshaven, his brown hair tousled, with nice lips and nice eyes, in jeans, a shiny black belt, brown cowboy boots, white oxford shirt opened a few buttons, wifebeater showing. BURT is somewhat older than Joe, well into his 30s. He’s taking the whole scene in in his sly, furtive but obvious way. He’s an average, decent-looking guy who stands out by being pushy. He’s got a nice head of dark hair cut short, friendly eyes and five o’clock shadow. He sports a brightly-striped fall sweater and a pair of khakis.


BESS (definitive, hunched forward confidentially): I can’t stand another second this way.


BRETT nods in complicity.


BESS (scrutinizing Brett’s features): I like the way your lips look. Did you have them done?


Brett thinks for second.


BRETT (carefully, as if every word is dear): I had them made a little (uses thumb and index finger) fuller.


BESS (seriously): I like them.


BRETT (almost patronizing): Thanks. (almost too sincere, points) You look great.


BESS: Yes. But I could look...better.


BRETT: Whatever makes you feel good.


JOE’s been watching. He smirks in disgust, shaking his head, gets back into the magazine. BURT watches too, smiling faintly, pursing his lips.


JACK (calls from other room, nasal): Rosa. Would you please get Mrs. (Bess) Moore’s chart ready?


ROSA (from behind desk, calm): Okay.


JACK: Thank you Rosa.


ROSA: You’re welcome.


Burt makes his way to the desk, swaggering a little.


BURT (pointed but grinning): It’s not going to be too much longer, is it?


ROSA: You’re second in line.


BURT (measures this): Okay.


He smiles. Rosa smiles back. He starts to go back to his seat, stops, regards Brett.


BURT (informal but friendly): Hello.


BRETT (smiles brightly, showing her teeth, formal): Hi.


Burt turns to Bess, nods chivalrously.


BURT (formal but friendly): Hi.


BESS (smiles tightly, slightly cold): Hello.


Burt brings his head down exclusively.


BURT (hushed, dramatic): You two look great.


The women look at each other, smiling.


BESS (speaking at, not to Jack, while looking toward the wall): And I thought there were no gentlemen left.


BRETT (nods): Yeah. Exactly.


BURT (charmingly self-effacing): We are a dying breed.


BESS: Well. Thanks.


BURT (looking at Brett): It’s my pleasure.


JACK: Rosa. Call Mrs. Moore in.


ROSA: Mrs. Moore.


BESS (getting up): Okay.


She heads into the other room. Burt still stands there, smiling.


BURT: Anyway.


Brett smiles, starts thumbing through People. Burt stands there for what seems like forever, actually a few more seconds, goes back to his seat. Joe leans over from behind Brett, pointing at a picture.


JOE (drawls with affectation): That’s mah friend!


BRETT (turns gently, runs her eyes over him, looks at picture, looks him glitteringly in the eye): Oh really?


JOE: I was in another movie with him. This totally sick flick. It’ll be out this winter.


BRETT (nods, looks back at picture, then at Joe): Cool. You’re an actor?


JOE (shakes head): Yeah.


Brett shakes her head, stares into space, ruminative.


JOE (vulnerable): What’s wrong?


Brett shakes her head some more.


JOE: C’mon. What’s wrong?


BRETT: I just...I’ve been out with too many actors.


JOE: I hear ya. They get on my nerves too.


They laugh quietly. Bess returns.


BRETT: What’s your name?


JOE: Joe.


BRETT: Joe, this is Bess.


BESS (dignified): Hi.


JOE: Hi.


Rosa appears. She addresses Burt, who looks frustrated.


ROSA: Could you come with me?


BURT (resigned): Okay.


He gets up, follows her out.


JOE (a little cocky): Well. Now I get you two all to myself.


Brett raises her eyebrows at Bess.


JOE: Who’d like to accompany me to lunch after our appointments?


Bess gazes at Brett quizzically. Brett weights it.


BRETT (nonchalant): We’re already going to lunch.


JOE (feigns hurt, actually is, somewhat) O-kayyy.


Bess gives Brett a “poor baby” expression. Burt returns. Rosa’s right behind him.


ROSA (to Brett): Come with me, please.


They leave. Burt looks at Bess. Bess gazes on Joe. Joe surveys Burt. Burt goes for his coat, puts it on.


BURT: Well...goodbye.


BESS (smiles): Bye.


He pauses, exits. Joe leans forward.


JOE (with emphasis): You do look good.


BESS: You’re sweet.


JOE: Just telling you what I feel.


BESS: You could come to lunch with us.


Brett returns. Joe is called.


ROSA: Come.


JOE (to Bess): Where will you be?


BESS (winking at Brett): The, um, the Gramercy. We’ll be at the Gramercy Tavern.


JOE (gentlemanly): I’ll see you there.


BESS: Good.


He departs. Bess and Brett smile mysteriously.